June 6, 2017 -- Planning out an education and career path for the decade following high school is not typical among seniors, but Moore Norman Technology Center and Norman North High School graduate Hallie Hembree is not the typical senior.
She earned a full-ride scholarship to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and leaves for her six-week basic training in July. Afterward she begins the first courses of a rigorous college degree and military lifestyle program as an active duty service member. The Academy is located in West Point, N.Y.
Hembree’s road to West Point began a bit differently than most in-coming freshmen. She plays volleyball and at 6 feet 1 inch tall, she has a clear advantage. That advantage – coupled with her athletic ability – is what caught the eye of a West Point volleyball coach during a tournament in Colorado during her junior year. After much communication and multiple visits to West Point, Hembree signed-on to join their volleyball team, which also meant becoming a military recruit.
“I committed to West Point after my first visit. I loved the atmosphere and what they offer aligns with what I want to do after college. The fact that I can play volleyball for them makes it even better; they’re an NCAA Division One school so technically, I’m a recruited athlete,” Hembree said.
As a high school junior Hembree enrolled in MNTC’s Biotechnology program which served as elective credits on her transcript. This year she took Pre-Nursing and has prepared all year for the Advanced Unlicensed Assistant exam that she will take this month. She has done many hours of direct patient care through clinical site rotations at Southwest Integris Medical Center and said that experience alone will carry her through her toughest challenges.
“I’ve wanted to be a doctor even before I thought about joining the military, but now I know that military service is a great way to pay for college and even medical school. I’ll also have a job right after finishing medical school going this route.
“I feel like my time at Moore Norman has prepared me for the difficulties I’ll face at West Point. When things get really hard, I’ll remember that I’ve already done really hard things to push my limits,” she said.
Hembree is one of only seven high school graduates from Oklahoma going to West Point this year. She has been psychologically preparing and acknowledged the adjustments to be made when she arrives at West Point: no cell phones, excessively limited personal time and interaction with family, no personal transportation and a highly structured daily and nightly plan made for her by the academy.
Hembree said every student who is accepted to West Point is on a full scholarship; however, applicants must get in on their own merit and follow the admission steps. According to West Point’s website, it takes more than excellent grades to be accepted for admission as they look for intelligent leaders of outstanding character who are also physically fit.
She said her application process took seven months and included getting a senator nomination, preparing for and taking a candidate fitness assessment, attending field force and nomination interviews, completing a candidate statement, submitting a medical exam and more.
Hembree is the first in her immediate family to join the military and said her parents, Laura Deaton and Mark Hembree, both of Norman, were initially surprised by her decision. She said it is the military lifestyle that prompted her to commit.
“At the beginning of my senior year, my Pre-Nursing instructor had us write a last day of school letter to ourselves. I wrote, ‘Be more mentally prepared to go to West Point’ because even though I felt physically prepared, I really didn’t know about military life and the mental preparation is different,” said Hembree.
West Point freshman and basic training graduates, called plebes, have every aspect of their life and time regimented to form them into military leaders with a brother/sisterhood mindset. She said everything they do is to prepare them for leadership roles.
“West Point grads are trained to become leaders in the military who will be in charge of others, which is more difficult. So, even the fitness and mental challenges will continue to get harder as we go through our years there to push us,” she said.
One way Hembree has prepared for the rigor of West Point’s academics has been through taking college courses through Oklahoma City Community College and the Pre-Nursing program at MNTC. Over this year she has learned higher-level medical terminology and anatomy and physiology, along with performing direct patient care clinical rotations in ER and wound care settings.
“My Moore Norman class was so much harder than school; I had three hours of Pre-Nursing work to get done each day. Plus, studying and exams at Moore Norman prepare me for the AUA certification and patient care.
“Being responsible for people’s lives is hard. It’s helped me prepare for West Point because you always have to be on top of your game in a medical setting and at Moore Norman I had to do that and take everything very seriously,” said Hembree.
After basic training, Hembree begins work toward a degree in either chemistry or life sciences. As a graduate she will serve as a commissioned officer for five years and can then choose to serve four-to-five years in the reserves or remain in active duty service.
“I’m excited to get to West Point because everything they do with us is symbolic and they teach us life lessons for our military career. I’m ready to start,” said Hembree.
by Anna Aguilar, APR